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Tolquhon Castle

A Scheduled Monument in Mid Formartine, Aberdeenshire

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Latitude: 57.3484 / 57°20'54"N

Longitude: -2.214 / 2°12'50"W

OS Eastings: 387222

OS Northings: 828679

OS Grid: NJ872286

Mapcode National: GBR N9W9.JF6

Mapcode Global: WH9PP.YKXG

Entry Name: Tolquhon Castle

Scheduled Date: 31 December 1921

Last Amended: 3 March 1999

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM90302

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Secular: castle

Location: Tarves

County: Aberdeenshire

Electoral Ward: Mid Formartine

Traditional County: Aberdeenshire


The monument comprises a castle and associated buildings of 15th and 16th century date. It is in the care of the Secretary of State for Scotland and is being re-scheduled to clarify the extent of the protected area.

The monument lies at around 100m OD. It comprises the remains of Tolquhon Castle, rebuilt between 1584 and 1589 by William Forbes, seventh laird of Tolquhon. The castle incorporates Preston's Tower, which came into the possession of the Forbes family in 1420 when Sir John Forbes married Marjorie Preston, daughter of Sir Henry Preston, Lord of Formartine. The 'tower and fortalice' of Tolquhon are mentioned in a charter of 2nd December 1536. Remains of early buildings associated with the tower may be expected to survive beneath the present land surface. The tower continued as the main residence until 1584, when reconstruction of the castle began.

Tolquhon Castle consists of four ranges, enclosing a sub-rectangular courtyard within which is a well some 6m deep. At the NE corner of the inner court are the remains of Preston's Tower. Originally four storeys high, only the first floor and cellar remain. The walls measure some 3m thick, and are far more substantial than the walls of the later ranges of the castle. The east range of the castle is two storeys high, with walls measuring about 1m thick. It originally housed service rooms, including the bakehouse, at ground level, with living accommodation above. Behind the two brick domed ovens in the bakehouse was a pit-prison, reached through a hatch from the floor above. The W range of the castle, also two storeys high, had service rooms at ground level and a gallery on the upper floor where the family could exercise in bad weather. The gallery was also used as a place to hang family portraits and display treasured possessions.

The main house lies at the south side of the inner court of the castle. The ground floor of its three storeys housed the kitchen and storage cellars. Three separate stairs link the ground and first floors. Two are narrow, for the use of the servants. The third is wider and more easily graded, giving access to the principal accommodation in the upper floors of the house as well as the gallery in the upper floor of the W range. Within the upper floors of the main house are a number of rooms, the largest being an outer hall where most entertaining would have taken place. Next to the hall is a private chamber, above which is a room thought to have been the laird's bed-chamber.

On the north side of the courtyard, immediately to the W of Preston's Tower, is the principal gateway. It has an arched doorway flanked by two drum towers with gunloops and heavily grilled windows and displaying diminutive figures above a string course. Above the doorway are two panels, one displaying the royal arms of King James VI, the other displaying the arms of William Forbes. To the right of the gateway is displayed a panel bearing the inscription:


Across the outer court of the castle from the gateway is the outer gate, with triple gunloops on either side of the entrance. To the E of the outer gate, in the NE corner of the castle forecourt, are the foundations of a dovecot with seven surviving nesting boxes. The walls stand to a height of about 1m. To the W of the castle and outer court lie the remains of a formal garden containing some old yews and the trace of former pathways.

In 1716 the estate was sold to ease financial pressures on the Forbes family. William Forbes, the eleventh laird, refused to abandon the castle, and was eventually wounded and dislodged from the castle on 5 September 1718. The estate was purchased by the Earl of Aberdeen, and the castle remained inhabited until the middle of the 19th century, after which the buildings fell into decay.

The area proposed for scheduling comprises the remains described and an area around them within which related material may be expected to be found. It measures a maximum of 252m, approximately NW-SE, by 154m NE-SW, as marked in red on the accompanying map extract.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

The monument is of national importance as a 16th'century castle whose date of construction and history of occupation are well documented. It contributes to an understanding of the architectural taste, material culture and social and economic history of the late 16th century to early 18th, while the area adjoining it has the potential to add further pertinent information concerning preceding structures, through archaeological excavation. Its importance is reflected in its status as a property in the care of the Secretary of State for Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



The monument is recorded by the RCAHMS as NJ 82 NE 1.


Cross, M. (1994) Bibliography of Monuments in the Care of the Secretary of State for Scotland, 578'9. Glasgow.

Shepherd, I. (1986) Exploring Scotland's Heritage, Grampian. HMSO; Edinburgh.

Simpson, W. D.(1937-8) Tolquhon Castle and its Builder. Proc. Soc. Antiq. Scot. 72, 248'72.

Tabraham, C. (1993) Tolquhon Castle. HMSO, Edinburgh.
Historic Environment Scotland Properties
Tolquhon Castle
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Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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